Social Media and Education Redux

At Northeastern University, I teach a graduate course on Social Media and Education – EDU 6333.  I have been teaching it for two years, and it is fascinating to work and learn with (relatively) younger Masters students on this topic.

The course is 12 weeks in length and flows like this, shifting between tools and processes:

Course Map

Our Twitter hashtag is #EDU6333.  The course runs in Northeastern’s Blackboard .. but in this Fall’s course for the third week on Communication, we shifted and conducted our weekly discussions in a private Facebook group.  It was interesting to hear some of my students’ perspectives about this shift – viewing communication within social media versus within Blackboard:

…I would have to agree with you that in many courses the discussion boards have been a forced post/response system where students post their required responses and then move on to the next week. I always put significant thought into what I am posting in both initial posts and responses but there rarely seems to be an actual back and forth conversation between classmates. I have to say that in this courses Twitter and Facebook seems to facilitate a genuine conversation, largely because of the notifications of responses in my opinion.

…With this being my 8th class on Blackboard, I have become use to it, but it is not intuitive and I use it because I have to. Not because I want to.

…In previous courses, I found myself completing the baseline of our expectations and not going above and beyond. With the ease and simplicity of using Twitter and Facebook on my phone, I find myself accessing course information a lot more, and I find myself a lot more engaged in the course, time wise and frequency wise!

…Most of us have gotten used to almost instant satisfaction with our social media, in that we are able to search for and view whatever pops into our mind in a matter of seconds. Blackboard would be wise to incorporate tools that allow users to operate more fluidly and with ease, instead of forcing us to click and click, searching for simple information.

…I think Blackboard would do well to infuse various components of popular social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, into their academic-based platform. Increased accessibility by cell phone and an insta-chat feature should be at the top of their list. These additions would facilitate higher levels of communication amongst instructors and students, as well as encourage contact with class-related content.

…Blackboard compared to Facebook as a discussion platform is similar to comparing penny farthing bikes to cars in regards to transportation. Blackboard is clunky, cumbersome and crude. More often than not, I type up my responses on google docs and then copy and paste them into Blackboard. Even simple tasks such as hyperlinking are using outdated code, requiring it to take a much longer time than is truly necessary. Additionally, consider the image I posted below. It took me only a few short seconds to type the term into my open search bar, find an image, copy it, and paste it below. In Blackboard, I need to find the image, download it, and re-upload it back in order to incorporate it.

…social media can enhance interactions with instructors and peers. Discussion boards do not achieve these goals. They are in my o experience contrived don’t emulate in class discussion nor do they take advantage of existing platforms today’s students use to communicate. In most (not all) online classes I’ve taken faculty do not participate on the discussion board, virtually eliminating all informal faculty and student communication. They are used more as formal assessment like a short paper.

…I have taken over 60 online courses at the college level, and I find myself more engaged in this course than any of the others because of the frequency and conversational format of communication that Twitter and Facebook allow. I really wish other instructors gave us these opportunities to converse more freely!

Now, not all students necessarily were in favor of social media as a learning platform:

…the lack of connectedness and immediacy to Blackboard can be seen as one of its strengths because there are not the same kinds of distractions you would have with Facebook or Twitter. In this sense, CMS platforms create a separation between learning and everyday life which might be beneficial. This is especially important for adult learners who might be working full time or have a family to take care of and can’t feel connected all the time.

…I would strongly prefer to NOT have my classes be based on Facebook compared to Blackboard. I am very diligent about deadlines, so I am not one of the students who needs constant reminders. Another downside for me is that when I come on Facebook, I just want to scroll through some friends and family, watch some funny cat videos, and generally have fun with it. It is good for winding down. If all of my classes notified me each time something was posted on the Facebook page, I would get jolted back into school mentality even during a time I have set aside for not school work, which bothers me.

…I enjoy having a Twitter to communicate with classmates, the conversation flows naturally and quickly between classmates (more like a “real” conversation). On the contrary, it is also nice to have a home base where the material lives for a course such as blackboard. Facebook is a great method of communication but I can also see how it could be disruptive for completing course work (i.e getting notifications on the picture you posted 5 hours ago while trying to complete a discussion post for your course).

…The BB can be utilized as a tool for means of communication among peers and instructors but similar to any social media outlet this varies from person to person and instructor to instructor.

A side conversation this week began as students discussed meeting their K12 or undergraduate students “where they were.”  Rather than Twitter and Facebook that is being used in our course, they suggested that their students were elsewhere:

…I offered Facebook or email; both were met with a chuckle. High schoolers have moved on from Facebook. We discussed Instagram, Snap Chat and Twitter as possible option and settled on Twitter. I’m sure most them have Facebook, but just do not use it much in their daily social online interactions.

…my middle schoolers said they would prefer instagram, snapchat and imessaging as methods of communication, in that order.

…I just sent a Facebook message to my best friend’s son, who is 17. I will say it only took him 30 seconds to respond. He tells me that high school kids have moved to Instagram and Twitter because Facebook is for old people

…I’ve had similar conversations with my 7th grade students. They are all about Instagram and SnapChat now because the pictures are most appealing to them and there is still a text chat feature on both for two-way communication.

To see a possible more up-to-date use of social media in education, I was exploring a class at Virginia Commonwealth University earlier in the week being taught by Jason Coats, Bonnie Boaz and Ryan Cales.  They have a common WordPress site for their three sections of UNIV 200.  They are using Slack for discussions, Flipgrid for weekly video reflections, and blogs for individual assignments.  Cool!  Is this how classes are evolving?

Last week, Jane Hart published her latest list of Top Tools for Learning…expanded this year to the Top 200.  For the first time in 7 years, Twitter is no longer Number One (though it is still a very healthy Number Three).  Facebook is Number 6.  But Slack is Number 20, up 63 places from last year.  If I counted right, there are 78 new tools on this year’s list (of course, it is an expanded list).  And not all meet the definition of “social media” … but many do.

So I am wondering – how would I redesign my Social Media and Education course in a School of Education Masters … taking in to consideration all these new opportunities!  How would you?

I would be interested in your thoughts…

And here is the latest Top Tools list:

 

 

 

Another Tools Post

Wow!  It has been almost 5 months since I last posted.  It is not for lack of content, but the past 5 months have been busy.  My wife and I moved to Virginia, I taught 4 courses online, and we traveled to New England to see the grandkids twice.  So blogging dropped in priority…who knew that retirement would be so tiring!

In July 2015, I posted on my top tools for learning in response to Jane Hart‘s annual call for top tools.  At the time, I noted the following tools (and how they had changed over the years):

2015tools3

2016 marks the 10th anniversary of Jane Hart’s wonderful Top 100 Tools list.  As Jane noted in this year’s call for votes:

“Due to the fact that the same tools have dominated the list in recent years, for 2016 the list will be extended to contain 200 tools so that more tools can be mentioned to create the Top 200 Tools for Learning 2016

Additionally, in order to understand how these tools are being used in different contexts, three sub-lists will also be generated:

  1. Top 100 Tools for Education – for use in schools, colleges, universities, adult ed
  2. Top 100 Tools for Workplace Learning – for use in training, for performance support, social collaboration, etc
  3. Top 100 Tools for Personal & Professional Learning – for self-organised learning”

That is exciting!

This past year, I retired from faculty development, relocated to Virginia, and engaged more fully in online teaching.  So, my tools have shifted.  Here are my top ten tools for this year (in Category One):

2016tools.

I teach for both Northeastern University and Creighton University.  That means two different LMSs (Blackboard and Canvas), but the LMS does not make my top ten…and I would be comfortable teaching in any (or none).  I introduce my students to blogging and social media, so Twitter, Tweetdeck, Diigo, WordPress, and Facebook are all actively used in my instruction (and in work submitted by my students).  I use Feedly and Netvibes to organize student tweets and blogs.  Camtasia and Snagit are used weekly to create multimedia for my classes.  I also instruct my students on curating their own content, and a favorite of my students this past year has been Pinterest.

If I was doing my top 20, some other tools that I use with my students would  be (in no particular order):

  • Storify
  • Piktochart
  • Hootsuite
  • VoiceThread
  • Blogger
  • Learnist
  • Pearltree
  • ScoopIt
  • YouTube
  • iPad

I list these because they surface as students curate and share content.

Thanks, Jane, for a remarkable 10 year journey.  Looking forward to the next decade!

{…and I plan to start blogging again…I have things to share and thoughts on which to reflect…}

 

 

The Pedagogy of Screening

My students in EDU6323 had a blast last week.  The focus was on screencasting, and for many, it was the first time they had created and shared a screencast.  Based on comments, I suspect it now will not be the last time.  Several have already begun incorporating short screencasts into their classrooms or work settings.

To set the stage for this week, I shared Kevin Kelly‘s 2011 talk at NExTWORK:

Kelly, senior editor at Wired magazine, noted that the web has evolved in unexpected ways…and one of them is “screening.”  Kelly added five other verbs to demonstrate how the web is evolving:

  • Screening
  • Interacting
  • Sharing
  • Flowing (Streaming)
  • Accessing (as opposed to Owning)
  • Generating

In the five years since Kelly prognosticated the future of the web, much of his insight has proven true.  Screencasts fits several of these trends.  Screen recording software started being used as early as the mid 1990’s, but the term screencasting was popularized around the same time as podcasting and became a common term for the production of digital recordings of computer screen output accompanied by audio narration. John Udell is largely credited with the development of the screencast as a medium for instruction. His “Heavy metal Umlaut” screencast demonstrating how Wikipedia articles evolve has become a cult classic among screencasters.

This concept of screening is illustrated in Corning’s look to the future in Day Made of Glass Part 1 and Part 2.  Kecie added to this with this tweet:

By the way, I refound this tweet by using twXplorer from Knight Lab.  Searching for “edu6323”, it collated all the links shared this past week by my class in one place.  Nice!

Some of the richest discussions concerned the pedagogy behind screencasts.  Students shared a video by Salman Khan discussing how screencasts can be an effective way to share ideas, deliver content, and obtain student feedback.  Another noted:

“…For more than a century people have been taking pictures, making movies, and distributing their creative efforts to viewers. Today’s camera technology enables students to do the same in the classroom, and in so doing, learn not only academic subject matter but also digital camera technology, which is educationally valuable. Here is a great article about Film can have a leading role in education.”

There was some excellent transfer from Laurie Poklop’s course on How People Learn.  Mayer’s Multimedia Principles came up from more than one student.

“…I think you are absolutely on to something by connecting the principles of embodiment and personalization in educational multimedia espoused by Mayer (2014) to the value of human connection in the learning process. While the use of a conversational tone may simply reduce extraneous cognitive load that may occur from attempting to “decode” academic language, I also think that we are hard-wired to respond to human faces and voices, helping us focus our attention in such situations, as our brains are apt to see patterns in terms of human faces in otherwise random patterns (Svoboda, 2007). Additionally, Mayer (2014) interestingly points out that having a static image of a speaker during a multimedia presentation actually does not help learning (p. 9). It is necessary to not only be aware of a human origin for narration, but also it is important to be able to see them behaving in a familiar, naturalistic manner…”

The self-pacing and control aspect of screencasts came up repeatedly.  One noted: “…I actually stumbled upon a cool study here when looking for a site to share on Diigo that talks about the pros and cons of screencasting as a self-pacing tool…”

Another conversation revolved around the best length for a screencast.  One student shared an article that suggested a two-minute video with one concept is better than a four minute video with two concepts.  Others suggested around 6 minutes.  TechSmith, maker of SnagIt and Camtasia, asked on Twitter and got a range of responses.  Interestingly, the student created screencasts went from under 2 minutes to nearly 20, on the subject of “Favorite Vacation Spot.”

So a good exploration of screencasting.  Next week, EDU6323 explores the curation of media, using a variety of tools.

 

Lesson in Explicitness or Lack Thereof

head slapEver developed one of those killer assignments that you know would be dynamite … and then you review the graduate student submissions and wonder – How could they have missed that!?!?

Yep!  It happened to me this week.  It happened ironically during a synthesis assignment on attention, memory and thinking, and it pointed out to me (again) how critical being explicit is in online learning (or any learning).

Let me provide some context.

For the past four weeks, my EDU 6323 class on Technology as a Medium for Learning has been reading the chapters on attention, memory and thinking in Michelle Miller’s Minds Online: Teaching Effectively With Technology.  I had previously blogged about her chapters last year – see my posts on Attention, Memory, and Thinking.  These chapters provided background as we explored digital tools for tagging, aggregating, social networking, and collaborating.

During those same four weeks, the students began using a group page in Diigo, purposefully curating resources around the topics of attention, memory and thinking.  They collectively shared over ninety articles, both from scholarly sources as well as mainstream media.  See below for some examples.

The assignment this week:

Over the past weeks, we have explored a number of Web 2.0 technologies (and we have a few to go).

EDU6323coursemap .

We have also been reading Miller’s book Minds Online. Chapters 4-6 focus on key cognitive attributes of attention, memory and thinking.  Also, we have been collectively gathering web resources on these topics in our Diigo Group page.

During this week, you will submit a 2-5 page double-spaced paper, synthesizing the lessons you take from these chapters and resources, and discussing specific ways some of the technologies we have discussed could be used to improve your teaching and student learning.  You will bring highlights of your thinking into this week’s discussion to share with your classmates.  The focus this week is on “collaboration” – so let’s learn from each other!

I thought it self-evident that the “collectively gathered web resources” in Diigo would inform their papers.  But that was not explicitedly stated in the assignment nor the rubric.

One student did, weaving in to his analysis three different articles that other classmates had saved in Diigo.  Four others used one or two of their own resources that they had added to the Diigo group page, but none from their classmates.  Half of the class had Miller’s book as their only resource, with no mention of the curated resources.

I place the “blame” (if that is the right word) squarely on my shoulders.  I did not make my expectations explicit and I did not provide enough scaffolding.  For the past three weeks, I have reminded students to pay attention to Miller’s chapters, as they would be using them as a lens for their upcoming paper.  In doing so, I focused their attention strictly on the book…and failed to highlight the importance of the other sources they were dutifully collecting.

In general, the papers were fine.  They summarized Miller’s key points and then discussed possible applications to their own teaching situations.  I just assumed that they would connect the dots between (1) the activity of gathering resources on attention, memory, and thinking and (2) the paper they were writing on applying the lessons to their own teaching situation.  That connection was crystal clear to me … but alluded 93% of my class.

My fault!

This is my first time teaching EDU 6323.  Next time, I will spend more time connecting the dots – and making explicit my expectations.

And just to share some of the good work the class did curating resources, here is a sampling:

I would welcome any suggestions you might have on making lessons more explicit.  Maybe I watch too much NCIS – but a head slap is what I feel I need right now!

headslap2

{Graphics: Chris Sabo, Watwood EDU6323 Course Graphic, Patricia Goldbach}

The Social Side of Social Bookmarking

DiigoIn EDU6323 this week, my students explored social bookmarking.  As one student noted in her weekly reflection – “Holy Moly – How Did I Not Know About This?”  Her observation matched about 90% of my class…which is interesting given that social bookmarking has been around for nearly a decade.  In my mind, this in some ways simply demonstrates that our past educational system was built on the individual, which resulted in people who do not naturally share or collaborate in digital ways.  The changing landscape of the digital world in the past decade has resulted in processes that are open, social and participatory…but that does not mean that those educated in earlier days automatically adopt these practices.  Within our class discussion forum, we had some interesting discussion around digital literacy and skill building.  Many suggested that they were rethinking fundamentals – that skills such as social bookmarking were critical skills that should be integrated in K-12 education rather than waiting until higher education.  Several stated that they were immediately discussing this practice with their students.  Others likewise were sharing the practice with their co-workers.

To help demonstrate the power of social bookmarking, we used Diigo to collaboratively collect articles associated with three myths discussed by Michelle Miller in her third chapter of Minds Online.  Michelle debunked three common myths involving digital technology – that use of technology is rewiring our brains, that kids are digital natives, and that the use of social media is destroying relationships.  Student reflections noted that many of these myths resonated with them, and that they were frankly surprised to find that there was little research substantiating these beliefs.  They collected a nice variety of articles that supported Miller’s view, and in the process illustrated how collectively we can quickly amass an excellent resource.

In thinking deeper about digital literacy, they reflected on how they and their colleagues tended to reject change.  In working with faculty over the past decade, I and others have seen this repeatedly.  However, after initially rejecting change, we have also seen faculty come back, retry something, and ultimately embrace it – whether we are talking about technology or new teaching practices.

In reflecting and discussing the social side of social bookmarking, several students saw potential opportunities for collaboration, but they also worried about collaborative approaches in a world still focused on individuals.  If a group collaboratively built something, how does one grade individual effort?  Others worried that students might violate copyright if they were allowed to freely share content.

Regarding grades, I spent part of the 1980s involved with the quality movement, known then as Total Quality Management.  One of the guiding lights of TQM was Edwards Deming, who passed away in 1993.  Deming was chiefly responsible for the rebirth of Japan following World War II, in which the quality of products (Sony, Toyota, etc) far exceeded USA products – at least until American companies started listening to Deming.

One of Deming’s beliefs was that you could pick the top 5% and bottom 5% of effort in any project, but that it was meaningless to spend time trying to quantify the middle 90%.  As such, he felt that in education, individual grades tended to be meaningless.

That was 30 years ago!  With the new affordances of digital technology – and the opportunities associated with collaborative learning, perhaps a new grading scheme is needed!  Would teachers and faculty be ready for such a radical notion?

As to remixed copyright, I shared Larry Lessig’s TED Talk.  Another radical notion?

I really enjoy our journey through digital technology, which several students describe as “eye-opening”!  Next week, we move into aggregating content.  I hope more radical notions are uncovered!

{Graphics: Marc Campman, Educause}

Deeper Searches

google-search-resultsIn the third week of EDU 6323, my students explored web searches.  I had them read the second chapter of Michelle Miller’s Minds Online, Nicholas Carr’s Is Google Making Us Stupid, Eszter Hargittai and colleagues’ Trust Online, and Clive Thompson’s Why Kids Can’t Search.  I also covered advanced search techniques on Google as well as the use of WhoIs and the Wayback Machine.

As an exercise for the week, my students were tasked with picking a 2016 Presidential candidate … and then first searching using Google to determine the “Super Pac” that is backing that candidate … and then trying the same search using Bing and DuckDuckGo to see if they got the same results.  One of my Asian-American students added Baidu, which was rather interesting!  They then were to explore more deeply the website for the SuperPac they had chosen to see if they could find who registered and authored that website. Using the Wayback Machine, they explored how long has the website had been around.

This was the first time I have tried this particular activity in one of my online classes, and I was impressed with the analysis of my students.  First, they learned a lot about SuperPacs, One of the go to websites was OpenSecrets.Org – which they in turn analyzed for validity.  Several were surprised to find SuperPacs supporting Bernie Sanders (though this apparently was not reciprocated).  Several not only found the founder of certain SuperPacs, but then dug deeper into data about this person and how that might influence how the SuperPac was being used.

I found the reflections around personal searches most interesting.  As one student noted, “…everyday web searching is superficial compared to the possibilities.”

An interesting quote from one student:

“At this point I took a pause to think about the article “Is Google making us Stupid?”  because in just under half an hour I had learned something very significant about political campaigns in this country, I had read (not skimmed)  several articles, and I certainly felt wiser and more informed.  When I first read the article, before doing this search exercise, I was in agreement with the author– afraid of my thought processes becoming like an algorithm. But last night, when I went to go read a new book that I have,  I noticed something interesting. In order to read a book, I need to take my body off of high alert. It may seem like we are passively searching the Internet, sitting on our butts on the sofa,  but I noticed that my breathing was different,  my calmness level was different, and even the way I felt about reading was different when I was holding a physical book in my hand versus being online.”

Most noted they had used Google without much thought, and appreciated the new awareness of both alternatives as well as search shortcuts within Google.  Google, Bing, and DuckDuckGo tended to return similar sites, but the look and feel was different.  All seemed to return news stories ahead of the SuperPacs themselves, which helped reinforce the concept of PageRank.  Interestingly, Baidu returned similar sites, but the taglines in some cases were several years older. Most of my students had not heard of the Wayback Machine or WhoIs before and liked the ability to better understand the history of a website.  Several noted that they could now as parents help their children more critically search!  They seemed to agree that teaching search skills is a digital literacy that needs to start in K-12 and be reinforced in higher education.

searchengines3

Most disagreed with Carr’s viewpoint on Google making us stupid, though his point about skimming over deep reading seemed to resonate.  Most noted that Google is a tool that can make us more efficient…or lead to superficial search.  As one student noted, a hammer can build or tear down.  It is not the tool but the use that counts.  One student suggested that mainstream media and its soundbite mentality had more to do with skimming than any website.

Miller brought up the use of technology to mitigate against cheating in online classes in her second chapter, and that led several of my students to discuss cheating in a digital age.  Most seemed to think that focusing on cheating only in online courses missed the broader point.  Several also suggested that deeper engagement by students could lead to less problems with academic integrity.

So, I was very pleased with how this week’s thought exercise worked.  Next week, my students will begin using Diigo and explore the concept of tagging.

{Graphic: Geomarketing}

First Week in EDU6323

It has been awhile since I blogged…but as I move into retirement from faculty development and spend more time teaching adjunct, my blog offers a place to reflect on my online teaching.

I am currently teaching a graduate course for Northeastern University – Technology as a Medium for Learning (EDU6323).  I was asked to completely redesign this course to add more learning science to the course flow.  As the course objectives aligned with a course Jeff Nugent developed several years ago, I took the basic flow from Jeff’s course, but added Michelle Miller’s book as the course textbook, so that we would examine the various digital technologies through the cognitive lens of Attention, Memory, Thinking and Multimedia.

EDU6323coursemap

To start the course off, the students read Mike Wesch‘s From Knowledgable to Knowledge-able, The Next Generation Digital Learning Environment, and an interview by Mary Grush on moving from course management to course networking, all within the context of learning in a networked environment.  They also viewed the Networked Society video:

The students are tweeting to hashtag #EDU6323 weekly, as well as analyzing the readings and discussing their insights in our Blackboard discussion board.  My students span the country.

6323maptweet

Some are in K-12 as teachers or coaches, some are in community colleges, and some are in higher education administration or educational technology. Yet it was interesting how these readings and video in some ways overwhelmed my students.  While living in it, they had not reflected before on the pace and magnitude of change occurring in learning environments.  Some questioned who was ahead in dealing with this change – higher education or K-12?  There was some discussion on the potential gap that can exist between haves and have-nots, but also a recognition that in some ways, developing countries now have access to learning – leading to the question as to whether it is the middle that is being squeezed.

What is gratifying is that my students appear focused on student learning, not tools and technology.  There was discussion as to whether more or less technology in the classroom was the answer, but they kept coming back to the affordances technology “could” give for learning.  One student summarized:

“E-learning empowers the individual by putting information in the hands of everyone, not just the elite.  It affords everyone, even those in the remotest of regions and in the most un-institutional places, the invaluable advantage of learning, of being both the holder and creator of knowledge.”

Given that I have several students in health care education, there was some push-back on Mike’s article.  These students teach in programs that lead to students taking national certification exams, so “teaching to the test” is a bit of the norm.  We had some good discussion in both Twitter and Blackboard around assessment of learning.  As one student noted:

“With all of the personalization and every aspect being chosen for the learner (ie review questions, etc), how does this bolster dedication, motivation, perseverance, and most of all organizational skills?”

Some questioned whether the concept of “learning management systems” is an outdated concept.  We will dig deeper into this in a few weeks.  There was comfort in the structure that LMS‘s provide, but recognition that they also limited both teaching and learning.  Some noted that this comfort has more to do with teachers than students, and that fear of change may keep teachers from experimenting.

It was nice to see the concept of “free” surface in the first week.  There are many free apps and softwares available for teaching and learning – but there are “costs” associated with the selection of these free apps, particularly when it comes to time for teachers to tinker and play.

Please join us at the Twitter hashtag #EDU6323 in the coming ten weeks as we explore digital technologies for learning.  Next week, my students will be exploring educational blogs and trying to answer the two questions – Should students blog? and Should teachers blog?

How would you answer that question?

 

A Dam Blimage Challenge

As I noted in my last post, a new blogging challenge has emerged called blimage – a “blog image” challenge: You must use an image sent to you and “incorporate it into your blog, and write a post about learning based on it…Then pass an image of your choice on to someone else so they can do their own #blimage challenge.” Read about the original idea here.

I so far have twice challenged my colleague Enoch Hale (who last year challenged me to a 30-Day Challenge with wicked fun results) and he responded with excellent posts here and here.  He in turn challenged me which resulted in my last post.  Now I have received another challenge from Enoch with this image of Ross Dam:

ross-dam

Ross Dam by werner22brigitte

Great image!

Do I focus on what is held back or what is released?

Holding back brings to mind fear, which brings to mind faculty discomfort with social media.  Behind the dam, the waters appear pretty calm.  The status quo is working, so why would faculty want to bring the disruption of social media into their classrooms?

Melissa Venable provides some thoughts in her post last year entitled “Face Your Social Media Fears“.  She noted that perhaps the importance of social media stems from the fact that is so widely used:

She suggested that faculty were concerned about privacy, looking unprofessional, going public in a traditionally private world, and managing the time investment social media seemed to require.  She gave practical suggestions on each of these concerns, and ended with two suggestions to keep it all manageable:

  • Find a good role model. Where are professionals in your career field or field of study engaging via social media? Spend some time on those platforms (e.g., LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest) first, and look for one or two people whose style and approach you can emulate and make your own.
  • Stay positive. Build your reputation, through your approach and the messages you send, as someone who is not only knowledgeable, but also helpful to others in the community.

Good suggestions.

So what can happen when you release the potential of social media in your classroom?

Ross_Dam_USACE_20031022

Marie Owens suggested in a post in Faculty Focus that faculty should view social media not as a concern but as an opportunity to connect with students. “By approaching the nearly constant online interaction of their students as a chance to connect, teachers might find a new context to do what they love to do: teach. ”

Like all aspects of teaching, the use of social media does not in and of itself lead to learning.  Knight and Kaye in their 2014 published study “To Tweet or Not To Tweet” found that students made greater use of Twitter for the passive reception of information rather than participation in learning activities.  Kelli Marshall had similar results until she made some mindful changes in how she used Twitter (and communicated that use).  Likewise, Mark Ferris used Twitter to add engagement to his statistics course.

Lisa Blaschke conducted research using questionnaires and interviews and incorporating the perspectives of both students and instructors on the use of social media in the online classroom, looking to explore how media influenced interaction and learner development. The results indicated that students perceived specific social media (Google Docs, mind mapping and e-portfolio software) in conjunction with specific learning activities as influencing specific cognitive and meta-cognitive skills (constructing new knowledge, reflecting on course content, understanding individual learning process). Her research also indicated an increase in student familiarity with using social media and student research skills.  She noted that “…it is evident that social media alone is not the exclusive factor in influencing cognitive and meta-cognitive development in learners. Rather, it is the combination of the pedagogy in the course design and delivery, together with the technology, that creates the kind of nurturing environment for this development to occur.”

In their book Teaching Crowds, Jon Dron and Terry Anderson quote John Seeley Brown and Paul Duguid from The Social Life of Information:

“Learning is a remarkably social process. Social groups provide the resources for their members to learn.”

We are only beginning to research the opportunities that social media bring to classrooms – motivation, engagement, ability to surface prior knowledge, and self-directed learning.  Yet I find the potential that can be released exciting!

My thanks to Enoch Hale for his challenge.  Back at you next week, buddy!

Graphics: {Brigette Werner, Wikipedia}

Direct Instruction and Learning Science

icon-e-learningKristi Bronkey had a nice article in Faculty Focus yesterday entitled “Re-Thinking Direct Instruction in Online Learning.” She noted that while direct instruction had a bad reputation associated with passive learning, it did not have to reflect passivity. She suggested a model framed around the notions of “I Do, We Do, and You Do.”

  • I Do – Direct instruction by faculty using screencasts
  • We Do – Faculty guided student processes with frequent feedback
  • You Do – Students working together in authentic group processes

Kristi noted:

“Direct Instruction should be an ongoing exchange between professor and students. With effort, creativity, and the intentional use of the I Do, We Do, You Do structure, we can present new information in engaging ways, provide guided feedback as students strive to draw meaning from their new learning, and allow students the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues before independently reflecting on their own learning.”

How Learning WorksI was struck by the parallels between Kristi’s article and the research Susan Ambrose and her colleagues published (2010) in How Learning Works: Seven Researched-Based Principles for Smart Teaching.

Kristi noted that for “I Do”, faculty could use short screencasts to help students make connections between the reading assignments and bigger picture aspects of the topic being discussed. She noted that this allowed students to “hear our thought processes.” This aligns nicely with the Knowledge Organization principle:

“How students organize knowledge influences how they learn and apply what they know.”

Students do not have the rich knowledge structure and associated connections of facts that faculty experts draw on when conceptualizing a topic. Articulating these connections can aid student learning.

Faculty screencasts can also help guide the students in both procedural knowledge and the knowledge of how to employ them – steps towards mastery. Developing a concise screencast can help faculty push past their own “expert blind spot” by clearly identifying skills needed and steps for applying these skills.  This aligns with another principle noted by Ambrose:

“To develop mastery, students must acquire component skills, practice integrating them, and know when to apply them.”

Facts can be dry…but rarely come across as dry when a passionate expert discusses them. Screencasts can provide avenues in which this passion of the faculty becomes evident, and that links to student motivation for learning. As Ambrose noted:

“Students’ motivation determines, directs, and sustains what they do to learn.”

Two more principles can surface in the We Do area of learning processes. Students come to our courses with a wealth of knowledge already, and helping students surface that prior knowledge influences how they filter and process what they are learning. If they lack sufficient prior knowledge, learning can be negatively impacted. The facilitative nature of We Do can help engage prior knowledge.

“Students’ prior knowledge can help or hinder learning.”

Kristi’s article also discusses the use of frequent feedback. Ambrose noted that learning is best fostered when students engage in practice that is directly linked to learning outcomes, set at an appropriate level of challenge, and is linked to specific and explicit feedback.  As Kristi noted, feedback does not simply have to summative – it can be used formatively during learning processes to guide students to higher levels of achievement.

Goal-directed practice coupled with targeted feedback enhances the quality of students’ learning.”

In the final section of Kristi’s post, she discusses the independent nature of You Do in online learning, but advocates for a mix of group activities and independent metacognitive reflection.  Tackling the potential for isolation addresses another principle noted by Ambrose:

“Students’ current level of development interacts with the social, emotional, and intellectual climate of the course to impact learning.”

The reflection on their own contribution to the progress of learning also aligns with the final principle noted by Ambrose:

“To become self-directed learners, students must learn to monitor and adjust their approaches to learning.”

learning_graphicI like Kristi’s call to action for online professors.  We would not want passivity in our students, and we should not allow our delivery to be passive.  Incorporating the concepts of I Do / We Do / You Do as a mindful approach to course design can not only help keep students engaged, but also better incorporate aspects of learning science that we know from research lead to more effective learning.

{Graphics: EuroMedia, Jossey-Bass, John Hopkins University}

Attention, Cognition, and Online Learning

Twitter-AttentionLast week, I began discussing Michelle Miller’s new book, Minds Online: Teaching Effectively With Technology.  In my post, “Cognitively Optimized Online Course,” I reviewed the first three chapters on online learning, how it works, and the psychology of computing.  In this post, I look at the fourth chapter, on attention.

Sooo … has the cute picture of the little dog grabbed your attention?

And in doing so, have I sidetracked our exploration of attention?

Michelle’s chapter begins with an exploration of the Stroop Effect, and how easy it is to derail attention.

StroopThe link above takes you to a simple task of speaking two sets of words, with the caveat that you speak the color, not the printed word.  It took me about 50% longer to complete Set #2 over Set #1, because my mind kept focusing on the mismatch between the printed word and the color.  Michelle noted that you cannot separate cognition from the mechanisms we use to allocate our cognitive resources…so paying attention to paying attention is important in online course design.

Yet, attention can easily be shifted.  The message ding on our phone pulls us away from the computer screen.  Images in our lessons that do not align with the task impact our attention.

We also have limitations, including inattentional blindness when we focus.  It goes back 8 years ago, but I used the video below as an example of inattentional blindness during a job interview.

As Michelle noted:

“The inattentional blindness effect illustrates a broader truth about human perception and attention, that looking and seeing are two different things – and that we are remarkably prone to missing stimuli when our attention is directed elsewhere.”

… as “The Invisible Gorilla” showed.

While capacity cannot be expanded, it can be altered by practice. Actions that become automatic free up the brain to process other information.  Michelle is quick to note that practice does not mean we can actually multitask…we just think that we can.

Attention is highly intertwined with visual processing, which is another facet of online course design that matters.  She describes change blindness, in which changes to the screen are not picked up readily.  Most people think they perceive more change than they really do.

 Working memory is an area of significant variation among individuals.  Michelle noted that attention directs what goes in to working memory, so again, understanding attention is important to creating a learning environment.

minds_online2Michelle suggested several strategies regarding attention and online learning.

  • Ask students to respond
    • Chunk material into short segments and have students do something (answer a question, click on a hotspot, etc)
  • Take advantage of automaticity
    • Use auto-grading features of LMS’s to provide practice opportunities and feedback, with incentives for completion
  • Assess Cognitive Load
    • You really can do little to impact the cognitive demands of the topic or the individual, but you can impact cognitive load by design features.  Poor instructions or requiring new features without practice can negatively increase cognitive load.
  • Discourage Divided Attention
    • The web is full of distractions, but simply informing students that they should pay attention actually increases attention.

The chapter on attention suggests that educating students about multitasking, making materials as seamless as possible, minimizing extraneous attention drains, and keeping them engaged through compelling activities – these will help with learning in online classes.

From attention, Michelle moves to memory – my next post.

{Graphic: Social Caffeine }